Fantastic Fest Review: Nightbreed – The Cabal Cut

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Fantastic Fest Review: Nightbreed – The Cabal CutAs the theatrical cut of Nightbreed was my introduction to Clive Barker in my youth, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for it.  The film’s themes of living as an outsider and misfit monsters – which echoed many of Universal’s “classic monster” films I love – spoke to me in my early teens.  Plus, I really responded to the creatures as well as the maniac Decker (played by David Cronenberg).

Of course, as I got older, I began seeing the film’s sundry flaws (and there are many), yet I accepted the film for what it was.  Also, I was always curious to see what writer-director Barker originally had in mind, since my awareness of an existing “director’s cut” was kept alive by magazines like Fangoria.

Said director’s cut – or “The Cabal Cut” as it has been monikered – is now seeing the light of day, playing on the film festival circuit in a supremely raw form before it is remastered for Blu-ray thanks to the union of Scream Factory, Seraphim Films and Morgan Creek.

This “Cabal Cut” features 70% of unseen scenes and alternate takes and alternates between the clean theatrical cut and murky VHS-quality footage.  Mind you, my feelings about this cut are not swayed by its picture and sound quality.  This is “work print”-quality stuff, well, because it is partially a “work print.”

That said, the cut features all of the trappings of a “work print.”  

It’s bloated.  There’s a ton of fat to cut.  But what’s noteworthy is that it is truly another take on the film.  

The focus is more on Boone and Lori.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say the Cabal Cut is really Lori’s film.  A lot of the emotional weight rests on her shoulders.  Boone is still all over the map and drops out of the film for a bit (when he tells Lylesberg he’s going to see Baphomet, it’s apparently a really, really long walk to go downstairs) and Decker is sidelined as one of the film’s myriad threats.  There is the introduction to a voice in Decker’s head, beckoning him to put on the mask and kill.  This detail is wildly inconsistent and comes in way too late in the film, still, it’s an interesting touch if it was established properly.

Another notable addition that affects the film: The extended raid on Midian which seems much more brutal now and includes more monsters getting blown away by Eigerman’s men.  This draws the whole third act action scene out and may be satisfying to some.

But for all of the additions (an estimated 45 minutes of footage), the Cabal Cut needs to be tightened which leads me to say this: When it comes to “who got it right?” – is it Barker or the studio that insisted on reshoots?  I have to say neither party.  There’s a cut that exists between the world of the theatrical release and the Cabal Cut that is probably pleasing, but I wouldn’t say the Cabal Cut is the end-all, be-all.  Rather, I think this new cut works as an educational piece.  Something to show folks in “studio versus the director” discussions.  

Even if this cut isn’t a complete success, I’m still fascinated by it and by the hard work that has been put into it and when Scream Factory cleans it up, I’ll certainly give it a revisit.


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